Angilbert (fl. ca. 840/50), On the Battle Which was Fought at Fontenoy

The Law of Christians is broken,
Blood by the hands of hell profusely shed like rain,
And the throat of Cerberus bellows songs of joy.

Angelbertus, Versus de Bella que fuit acta Fontaneto

Fracta est lex christianorum
Sanguinis proluvio, unde manus inferorum,
gaudet gula Cerberi.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Lyotard's "Differend" and this Blog

IT IS ODD PERHAPS to begin a blog entitled "Lex Christianorum," or Law of the Christian People, with Jean-Francois Lyotard's notion of the "differend." After all, Lyotard was a post-modernist, ultra-leftist Socialist, and not by any means, at least by confession, a Christian. He denied any "Grand Narratives," and I would suppose this would include the "Grand Narratives" of the Old and New Testaments. However, there is a reason for the reference to Lyotard. He was a fierce critic of the Enlightenment project. Admittedly, Lyotard engages the Enlightenment and its failures from an entirely different angle than critics of a more traditional vein, such as Alasdair McIntyre (also a fierce critic of the Enlightenment, but whose vantage point is decidedly Aristotelian/Thomist). And, given his perspective, Lyotard arrives at conclusions, proposes solutions, and advances radical political agendas different and unacceptable to the Catholic Christian. However all that may be, it was Lyotard's notion of the "differend" that set me to thinking, and resulted in this blog.

In his The Differend: Phrases in Dispute, Lyotard states: "As distinguished from a litigation, a differend would be a case of conflict, between (at least) two parties, that cannot be equitably resolved for lack of a rule of judgment applicable to both arguments." (p. xi) He explains: "[A] differend [is] the case where the plaintiff is divested of the means to argue and becomes for that reason a victim. . . . A case of differend between two parties takes place when the 'regulation' of the conflict that opposes them is done in the idiom of one of the parties while the wrong suffered by the other is not signified in that idiom. . . . The differend is signaled by this inability to prove. The one who lodges a complaint is heard, but the one who is a victim, and who is perhaps the same one, is reduced to silence." (p. 9-10) This concept is not limited to judicial conflict, but political conflict as well.

For some time now, the Christian has been on the legal, political, and cultural defensive. American legal and political institutions have become increasingly secular (which is falsely touted as "neutral"), and, under the guise of being "secular," anti-Christian. Our civil society, and its fundamental institutions--marriage and the family as prime examples--have become corrupt and subject to the most virulent attacks. Even the right to life (one should think the most fundamental of all rights and one which the government has a preeminent duty to defend), has eroded. The "right" to abortion (which is a "right" to kill, no more and no less) has advanced to the point where some have called it a modern sacrament (v. Ginette Paris' The Sacrament of Abortion.) This spurious "right," like so many others with a shallow and questionable heritage, has certainly become stitched into the fabric of our most fundamental law by way of Roe v. Wade and its progeny.

It has become increasingly apparent to me that we are rapidly approaching that point where the Christian is being robbed of his ability to engage, to participate, to contribute to the democratic political process or have his voice heard through reliance on the Rule of Law and the judicial process. We have come to a point, of long time coming, where there is no longer a "regulation" or a "rule of judgment" applicable to the legal or political arguments of the day from which a Christian may be heard. Christianity and its legal and moral capital has largely become spent or has been abandoned in the breach, and, at least in the foro publico or public forum, the Christian vocabulary is no longer recognized as valid idiom. Similarly, the Natural Law, which was so prevalent at our Nation's founding (one need only take a cursory glance at Justice Wilson's writings or Jefferson's Declaration of Independence to recognize the how the Natural Law tinctured the whole fabric of our fundamental and positive laws), has been banished from the halls of our academe, the assemblies of our legislatures, and the chambers of our courts. As a result of a long process, the legal and political idiom is no longer Christian, nay, not even authentically human; and so in the political and legal conflicts of the day, Christians--and men and women of good will and right reason--are effectively reduced to silence. Christianity and Christians are the new victims. In the words of Lyotard, they have been ushered from being parties in a "litigation" to being parties in a "differend."

This blog will contain musings on the Christian Law and the Natural Law, and will address the philosophical, cultural, and historical processes of how we got to the point where Christians have lost an effective voice in the legal and political discussions of the day (unless Christians speak as non-Christians, but if they use the non-Christian idiom of the day, the evangelical witness is neutralized and their loss in the public debate assured). It will explore the theoretical possibility (and the practical prudence) of advancing the notion of a "law of the tribes" under the umbrella of a "law of the peoples" as an answer to a pluralistic society where there simply seems to be too little to bind us a one people, and where the institutions that were intended to bind us as one people have either failed, have been hijacked to serve other purposes, or for one reason or another have become inimical to a life of virtue, and an authentic Christian life. Which is another way of saying, from an Augustinian perspective, that the "pursuit of happiness" may no longer be ours by right in the City of Man. As Genevieve Lloyd summarized the Augustinian teaching in her recent book Providence Lost : "No one escapes from justice except into unhappiness." (p. 143) Christians and men and women of good will will not be happy, will not flourish, in a society which has become institutionally unjust.


  1. This is a late comment to the Thread; a year later.

    Lyotard is exactly right. I want to second your witness to what Lyotard has observed. We live not in a secular society--but a Marxist society where only they prevail. They create the idiom, the "environment", and have to play by their rules. There is also something called "Dynamic Silence". Recently, Paul Craig Roberts who was once a sought after columnist, is no longer published by any leading media outlet. Pat Buchanan, Joseph Sobran, both leading Catholic intellectuals, were booted from the supposedly "conservative" National Review. Ayn Rand also has talked of this very same paradigm as Lyotard. Those not in the "in" crowd, get blocked, denied, and those of the crowd get all the benefits.

    We live in a Marxist society, in a Marxist culture. It is a cabal that runs us now.

  2. I don't know if I would call our society Marxist in the strict sense, though a sort of reformed Marxism or neo-Marxism is a significant vein. If by "Marxism" you mean atheistic materialism (that is, you loosen the definition some), then I would say you are absolutelyright.
    I know Buchanan was considered persona non grata and Sobran was booted from NR, but I perceived that to come from their refusal to bow to the "Amen Corner," that is the Zionists.
    On cabal governance. Ditto.